The Strategic Affairs Ministry headed by Gilad Erdan recently published a report that includes harsh accusations against the European Union.
The report charges that the EU provides financial support for the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement by means of 13 organizations – seven European and six Palestinian – that promote the delegitimization of Israel.
The report also claims that ultimately some portion of European tax monies reaches organizations that have links to terror. However, anyone who checks the details and studies the claims of the report will see that they can be refuted.
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This is a diplomatic maneuver, which is reminiscent more than anything else of an incident where the Turkish ambassador was humiliatingly seated on a low chair by Israeli officials. In effect, the document can only be understood as a deliberate attempt to create a crisis with the EU and its member states, as part of a general Israeli campaign aimed at delegitimizing both Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, left-wing groups and anyone who criticizes the occupation policy.
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When you read the claims in the ministry’s report, to the effect that the organizations mentioned in it support BDS, you discover that the source of the charges is the fact that these groups have called on businesses to discontinue their activity in the occupied territories. As we know, the Israeli government sees every call for a boycott against investment in the occupied territories as equivalent to a boycott against investment in Israel.
It should be mentioned that the Israeli government itself has signed a trade agreement with the EU that excludes the settlements.
An example of the manipulative nature of the report is its mention of an Irish organization called Trócaire. The report claims that Trócaire has called for economic sanctions against Israel, when on its website you can see a public declaration to the effect that not only does the organization not call for a boycott against Israel, it is involved in activity inside Israel. At the same time, Trócaire expresses opposition to Israel’s policy in the territories and calls on companies to stop doing business there.
Another claim in the report relates to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a veteran and highly regarded Palestinian human rights organization. The document claims that the PCHR is connected to the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is defined as a terror organization. This accusation is based on a single piece of evidence – namely, that in 2014 the PFLP organized a tribute to the director of the PCHR, Raji Sourani, after he won the Right Livelihood Award, the “alternative Nobel Prize.”
Some will say that while it may not have been the epitome of good taste, that event was not related to terror activity and was aimed at paying tribute to the long career of an esteemed human rights activist, who received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.
With a budget of over 100 million shekels (about $27.5 million) a year for his public diplomacy battle, the documents issued by Minister Erdan should be professional, precise and credible, especially in light of their influence on Israel’s foreign relations.
Erdan’s accusations of European funding of Palestinian and Israel civil society are having the opposite impact. As opposed to the support Israel receives from the world when it is truly fighting for its security, this step by Erdan is fated to fail, since the Israeli government offers only one approach: wielding power, with no connection to the facts. Diplomatic power, with which we attack all our critics, and military power in the field. The nation-state law, the NGO funding law, the so-called Breaking the Silence law and others – all are leading to a situation where Israel’s liberal-democratic decline will be swift and acute. A decline that will be replaced in the near future, it is to be hoped, by a different power – ethical, humane and pragmatic – that will lead to genuine concern for the country’s citizens and hopefully to peace with its neighbors as well.
The writer is the executive director of Physicians for Human Rights.